How to Format an iPod

Since iPods are basically big hard drives with special software and a screen, the hard drive in your iPod needs to be formatted. Formatting is essentially the process of prepping the drive to talk to the computer it connects to.

Luckily, you usually don’t have to worry about formatting your iPod. Formatting happens automatically when you first set up your iPod. If you use your iPod with a Mac, during this process it becomes Mac formatted. If you use it with Windows, it gets Windows formatting.

But what if you used to have a PC and just bought a Mac, or vice versa, and want to use your iPod with it? Then you have to reformat your iPod.

Also, if you have two computers – one Windows and one Mac – and want to use your iPod with both, you may need to reformat your iPod.


Before you even think about reformatting an iPod, make double sure that you’ve got your iTunes library backed up, because formatting the iPod means erasing everything on it and reloading it with songs, movies, etc.

Mac and PC Compatibility

If you have a Mac-formatted iPod and want to use it with a Windows computer, you will need to reformat it. If you have a Windows formatted iPod and want to use it with a Mac, you won’t. That’s because Macs can use both Mac and Windows-formatted iPods, whereas Windows can only use Windows-format iPods.

How to Reformat iPod

In order to reformat iPod to work on both Mac and PC, connect your iPod to a Windows computer. Then follow the steps in the how to restore your iPod article. This will reset your iPod and format it for Windows.

Now, resync your iPod with the computer that contains your iTunes library. ITunes will ask you if you want to erase and sync the iPod. If you say yes, this will redownload your iTunes library to the iPod.

At this point, you may also need a way to easily move your iTunes library to the second computer. A quick way to do this is with software that copies the contents of your iPod to a computer. Learn more about iPod copy and backup software here.

Checking iPod Format

Each time you sync your iPod, you can check what format it is. In the iPod management screen in iTunes, there’s some data at the top of the window next to the image of your iPod. One of those items is “Format,” which tells you how your iPod is formatted.